Succulent Seeds Gone Awry

Post last updated: August 13th, 2018

sprouting succulent seeds

I have long been fascinated with succulents and purchased a plant or two over the years. This year I discovered in a gardening catalog that I could grow succulents from seed. Wellllll … there is just nothing to compare with growing something from seed (“Oh look at my babies!”).

I ordered two packets. A sempervivum blend (seeds originating in Germany) and a rare succulent mix (seeds originating in South Africa). I didn’t exactly follow the planting directions on the back of the packet. Instead, I followed the directions in a book on succulents. Sort of. I was also influenced by something Stone the Gardener said on his blog about not giving seeds “a good Christian burial.” I didn’t want to be guilty of that since the South African seed packet was stamped, “Look closely. Seed size is variable, some dust-like.” A dust-sized seed would never be able to claw its way up from six feet under. But just how big is dust, anyway? Like a grain of sand or the dust bunnies under the bed? I don’t remember seeing any dust-like seeds. I probably got gypped. All I saw was something brown in a paper-like wrapper resembling a microscopic tea bag.

I planted both packets of seed in a green ceramic planter 7.5 inches long by 4.75 inches wide. The sempervivum seeds came up in four days like the proverbial fleas on a dog’s back. Alarmed, I returned to the seed packet. Three hundred seeds. Good heavens to mergatroyd, I wished I had seen that before planting all the seeds in such a small planter but I tend to refer to the directions only after “all else fails.” I can hear Evie now, “You so stoopit!” She always gets this look on her face, too, like she’s having trouble believing I have actually gotten even more stupid.

A week later, the twenty-five rare succulent seeds from South Africa had steadfastly refused to sprout, assuming that they were not going to resemble the two-leafed plants which were the size of a pin head on an old-fashioned straight pin. Consulting the seed packet, I found in the small print that germination could vary from a few days to a year. Really? A year? Notice how seed catalogs, whether in print or online, never provide the nitty gritty details? The stuff you need to know before making a purchasing decision? What we get are wild promises far removed from truth. According to the seed company, the South African rare succulents were “so pretty and easy to grow.”

Mutant Radicchio

I am reminded of the radicchio seeds I ordered from yet another seed company for my 2011 winter garden. They promised the seeds were a popular variety from an old Italian fishing village. The popular variety of radicchio, in case you’ve never seen it, should look like a head of red cabbage with white streaks coming up from the base. It should feel slightly leathery. What came up in my garden was a green leafed mutant “lettuce” with red spots that wasn’t quite leathery or crisp and it wouldn’t form a head. I was afraid to eat it because it didn’t look like anything I had ever seen. Seed companies are such prolific fiction writers you have to wonder why they don’t write novels.

Further inspection of the fine print on the rare succulent seed packet admonished that I was to have given these very special seeds a goldfish burial of two inches and water from the bottom. Oops. Having done everything wrong, my money is probably just gone on the South Africans. I’ll have to settle for the three hundred fleas.

8 thoughts on “Succulent Seeds Gone Awry”

  1. Seeds as small as dust?! That would make me wonder if they’re in there! I have a hard time just planting a few seeds, and wish I could purchase just a few instead of an entire package. I always feel like I’m wasting money if I don’t plant them all! A year to germinate? That is stretching it! Your lettuce, though, looks like a very pretty speckled leaf lettuce.

    1. Holley, I never saw those dust-like seeds so I don’t think I got a “mix” of rare succulents. Something is coming up that looks like an aloe BUT the sempervivums were also a “blend.” There is a seed company that will sell you just a few — Cherry Gal — but I didn’t think her prices reflected the smaller number of seeds. My “lettuce” was not lettuce. It was supposed to be radicchio which I really wanted. Who knows with these seed companies? They increase our day-to-day adventure with gardening. Have you been over to Jay Tracy’s Scientific Gardener? He’s on Blotanical and treating his veggie garden like a science experiment.

  2. You are sooooo stupid. You are always telling me to read directions and here you go trying to be Farmer Jones without reading or even knowing how to plant something new. I’m just shaking my head. I’m just glad you didn’t try to pass off on me one of those mutants you grew with some story about it being some new vegetable that was good for me.

    1. Shoot, I knew I’d never get away with my foibles. I should have NEVER told you about my blog and you would have never found it on your own since you never look at anything related to dirt. And I would NEVER pass off mutant veggies on anyone. I don’t want them coming back from the grave to haunt me.

  3. Directions are there for a reason. But I think only 10% of the population actually uses directions. My husband follows the belief that you read the directions when all else fails.

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